Businesses say they want more financial support should NZ move to Red

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jan 2022, 3:38pm
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives an update on traffic light settings today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives an update on traffic light settings today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Businesses say they want more financial support should NZ move to Red

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jan 2022, 3:38pm

Business groups have said they need more financial support from the Government should the country move to a tighter traffic light setting. 

Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the whole country will move to Red within 24 to 48 hours should there be a community outbreak of Omicron. 

"We're also confirming today that when we have evidence of Omicron transmitting in the community we won't use lockdowns, instead the whole country will move into Red within 24 to 48 hours." 

Ardern said that businesses could remain open during the Red light following the pandemic protocol. 

Viv Beck, chief executive of the business group Heart of the City. Photo / Alex Burton 

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck welcomed the news of confirmation that businesses were able to remain open during the Omicron outbreak but the new variant will impact larger gatherings and financial support was necessary to the affected business. 

" ... Although a shift to Red when Omicron hits the community will particularly impact sectors like events, attractions, hospitality, accommodation, and other close contact sectors with restrictions in place. 

"This will impact the city centre so even though we can be well prepared it will be a worrying time for the same sectors that have been impacted over and over again," she said. 

"It was fundamental that there was sustainable support for impacted businesses, including access to low-cost, easy-to-repay money and targeted support that recognises different levels of financial disadvantage. 

"It is disappointing that financial support for businesses wasn't signalled today. 

"Business continuity planning is essential. The information that will be coming out early next week from Government is critical. We will be doing what we can to ensure there is guidance for businesses available to assist them through this time," Beck said. 

The red setting would allow businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue but included mask wearing and gathering restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and keep pressure off our health system. 

At Orange, people can continue to do everyday activities. There are restrictions to limit the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people. But you can go to work, school, gyms, places of worship, restaurants, and many more places. 

Most businesses can open with no restrictions on numbers if they choose to follow My Vaccine Pass requirements, and only allow people with My Vaccine Pass to enter. 

If they choose not to follow My Vaccine Pass requirements, there will be limits on the number of people who can be in a venue at one time. 

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said she was pleased with the news that orange allows the businesses flexibility to open without restrictions on numbers where vaccine passes are being used. 

But more financial support was needed for the business should we move to tighter restrictions. 

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois. Photo / Supplied 

"Of concern is the move to the red traffic light when Omicron reaches the community, particularly if we are only given 24 hours' notice. 

"Any move to the red traffic light still presents restrictions on trading and the impact of this has been felt by our businesses who are recovering from two years of restricted trading. 

"Now we are in the traffic light system, there is no further financial support offered to businesses and we are awaiting feedback from the Government on financial assistance for businesses that is closed down as a result of positive cases among their workforce or as a result of exposure via a customer. 

"We know from the Omicron outbreak in other countries that the spread of this variant has caused a lot of uncertainty for businesses who are closing because of staff shortages as a result of exposure. We believe that businesses will need financial support to work through this new variant," Bidois said. 

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said retailers across the country are taking proactive steps to prepare for the arrival of Omicron in the community and asking Kiwis to understand that services levels may change as a result. 

"Despite the retail environment being relatively safe through the use of masks and QR codes to check-in, retailers across the country are preparing for Omicron and the impact this will have on their teams, and service levels," Harford said. 

"Retail NZ is asking Kiwis to understand that, during an Omicron outbreak, service offerings from retailers could change. This could be through limited staffing numbers, limits to shop hours, and product supply issues. We are calling on Kiwis to Shop Normal, Shop Nice and support the sector with a lot of understanding. 

"An Omicron outbreak will impact us all, but retail teams will be doing their best to deliver great products and services for customers while also being impacted in their workplace and at home. We are all impacted by the pandemic by being nice to the retail sector can go a long way to helping everyone out". 

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said hospitality and accommodation venues across Northland are welcoming Kiwis back to the region with the switch to the orange traffic light system at midnight. 

"The announcement of the move is great news and a welcome relief to businesses across the region who have been severely restricted till now. 

"They've done it particularly hard as they missed the usual influx of visitors from Auckland because of the sealed border. 

"I've spoken today to our Northland Branch President, John (Kojak) Maurice, and while he's delighted at the news, he points out businesses have missed the real high point of their season and need all the support they can get to help them recover something before winter," White said. 

"I encourage everyone, and particularly Aucklanders, to get up there. With their long weekend just a week away it would be great to see support for a region that has done it tough." 

White also welcomes further clarity around the traffic light system – that there will be warnings before moving back into red, and that lockdowns will be an absolute last resort. 

"But what is slightly concerning is the lack of Rapid Antigen Test kits that are on hand right now. 

"I know many more are on order, but there is a worldwide shortage, and what we've seen overseas is that they are crucial to keeping the workforce going, particularly front-facing staff, not just in hospitality but across most industries and through the supply chain. 

"Ensuring businesses have a plentiful supply will be crucial to keep the economy ticking over." 

- by Rahul Bhattarai